Israel Cancels Early Elections; Opposition To Join Government

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In an unexpected development, Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday called off early general elections hours after announcing his decision to hold polls on Sept. 4, almost a year earlier than it was originally scheduled. Israeli President Shimon Peres' office has confirmed the cancellation of the elections.

The early elections were canceled after the main opposition, centrist Kadima Party, agreed to a deal to join the government, a move that may have serious implications on how Tel Aviv would deal with the Iranian nuclear weapons threat, the Associated PressĀ reported.

A national unity government is good for the people of Israel ... in light of the crucial challenges facing it, requires broad national unity, the president's office said.

The newly elected Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, who has been critical of Netanyahu's policies, doesn't support a preemptive military strike on Iran's nuclear sites. The Kadima's support could also mean a greater momentum to make concessions to the Palestinians.

The Kadima emerged narrowly ahead of the rightwing Likud in the 2009 general election, but decided against joining the government when former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was the party leader because she remained unconvinced that Netanyahu was keen on reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Livni resigned from the Knesset earlier this month, after she lost Kadima's leadership to Mofaz, a former military chief and defense minister who will become deputy prime minister under the new coalition agreement.

The Netanyahu government, which had remained stable since its inauguration in March 2009, saw fissures in recent weeks following the court orders to demolish two West Bank settlement outposts and to end draft exemptions for tens of thousands of ultra-orthodox Jewish men.

Responding to the court orders, a senior Likud MK, Danny Danon, earlier released a statement urging Netanyahu to advance legislation that would enable the Knesset to bypass the court's decision.

The Israeli premier was accused of lack of resolve when a former top security chief Yuval Diskin criticized the government of misleading the public about the effectiveness of a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear site. Diskin, who retired last year as the director of Shin Bet, said he had no faith in the ability of the Israeli government in handling the Iranian threat or the Palestinian conflict.

''I don't believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings,'' Diskin said in the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba last month. ''I have observed them from up close. I fear very much that these are not the people I'd want at the wheel.''

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